Attrition Woes and The Economy
Found in: Studio Management
Jan D. Ohio
From talking with teachers across the country, Simply Music and others, many are experiencing the same thing. I blame the economy and the stress many are feeling a year after the economic downturn for much of it. I have talked to people who didn’t believe the economy was really that bad last fall who think otherwise now, are getting nervous, and are reevaluating their spending. My husband has been without a job for over a year now – I know I am feeling the stress more and feeling like this is never going to change.
My numbers are way down, as well, and I have depleted my waiting list. This is the first time since I started teaching Simply Music that I haven’t had many students waiting to begin lessons. From my high point a couple of years ago, I’m down about 20 students. Seeing that so many of us are experiencing this, it most likely isn’t anything you are doing “wrong.”
What I have noticed about most of the ones who left who didn’t really have a good reason for quitting, like job loss, illness, or an out-of-state move, is that they were the ones who I would rather not deal with anyways so they are probably the ones who really didn’t value music learning as much as we would like. When they get nervous about the economy or are financially strapped, they are going to eliminate what they don’t value.
What are other peoples’ opinions?
Joy V. Texas
I have a question concerning this. I’m new at this game, so perhaps I’m not seeing the whole picture, but I’m a little perplexed at the comments about Simply Music being so much more demanding than traditional lessons.
Is it truly more demanding? I understand totally the part that parents play as far as being at the lesson and participating at least somewhat — that’s different from traditional lessons. But what else is different with regard to requirements? When I was taking piano lessons, I was required to practice each day (Dozen a Days among other things – to me that is far more demanding than what I’m requiring my students to do. . .). And if I didn’t practice sufficiently the previous week, my teacher would scold me and make me review it again in class and encourage me to practice.
What I’m getting at is, is it possible that there is too much inflexibility? I mean, if it seems too demanding, perhaps the pace is too fast and things need to slow down (or even expand for those students who are learning faster than others). It seems the end result may be a slower moving class and the parents are actually paying more because it takes more lessons to get to the same proficiency, but hopefully there would be less attrition.
As I stated earlier, maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture, but if not, please set me straight.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
The difference is in our expectations of parental involvement not only at the lesson, but also throughout the week at home – making sure their child practices, marks off the playlist, watches the a video etc. It is more of a time commitment for the parents. Also, in shared lessons, it’s more of a problem if a student doesn’t keep up with practicing because of the group dynamic. There is more accountability.
A few thoughts on this topic:
I think “demanding” is too strong a word to describe SM teachers’ expectations. There has been a lot of discussion on this topic, and of course it is up to the individual teacher what s/he requires. If you haven’t listened to the “Request vs. Requirement” teacher workshop audio file, you should – it is excellent. Teachers who expect students to do their assignments and hold them and their parents accountable produce the best students – so if you want to produce the best students, you will communicate and follow through on your expectations. As far as the parents, either they are committed or they are not. If they aren’t, they may view it as demanding because they aren’t willing or able to invest the time at home.
Even if teachers seem to be losing more students than usual (for whatever reason), it doesn’t mean your business has to suffer. You may need to make a more concerted effort to keep the word out about Simply Music. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Janita and Bethany just co-hosted a chat about low- or no-cost opportunities. I have found that the longer I have attended business networking functions, the more benefit I have received. E-mail me privately if you want a great inexpensive book about how to make networking easy, even if it terrifies you. (It will also be available at the Omaha conference this week for those who are attending).
I still stubbornly hold to the belief that I can have as many students as I want, regardless of other factors. I recognize that it requires more effort at some times than others for various reasons. Consistency is what helps the most, I believe.
Dixie C. Washington
I’ve had more attrition this year than usual as well. I was just commenting to a SM parent (who’s also a good friend) that I never had these numbers of drop-outs when I taught traditional piano. Even when students would come week after week unprepared & not make progress, their parents tirelessly forked out $10/lesson for years before finally quitting. I even sometimes encouraged parents to find another teacher for their child, but the parents wanted to stay with me in spite of the fact their child wasn’t progressing.
When I shared with my SM parent/friend, this is what she said: It’s because that’s the way piano lessons were. If you did the right thing by putting your child in piano lessons, that was all you needed to do. And if they didn’t progress, well, you did the best you could. She feels it’s a mentality of mediocrity that runs through our society. Because SM demands time & energy from, not just the student, but the parent as well, and because it’s significantly more costly, and because we teachers require results & excellence in commitment, some parents just aren’t up to the challenge or don’t want to sacrifice that much.
So there you have it from a SM parent who’s children are struggling to revive their playlists after a summer off, but who is grounded in her belief in SM.
Darla H. Kansas
I’ve had a much higher turn over rate too since I began teaching SM. I began one year ago and have had more students drop out than ever before. However, I used to teach only 10-12 students, and now have 20. But when I taught traditional lessons, very few quit before 3 years of lessons. My thoughts at this point are that it isn’t that you or I are doing anything wrong, but that Simply Music is a much more demanding program in the areas of: parental involvement; organization; financial obligation, keeping songs alive even during vacations, etc. And although we try to give as much information about expectations from the very beginning, one can’t really understand the demands until one has tried it out. I think this is perhaps part of the reason that continual marketing is so important in SM, to keep getting the word out to as many people as possible, so that those who can handle the demands will find us. Good luck to you!